The second part of my extract from Zoë Howe’s Stevie Nicks biography, specifically the recording of Fleetwood Mac’s mega selling album Rumours.
Stevie admits her songs always start as simple sketches, she’d present them to the band and then they would be arranged. This was rarely easy; handing over her songs meant handing over her control, and apart from anything else, all of her songs were personal and precious to her. “I pretty much give it to them and say, ‘Do with it what you may,’” she said. “I’m always there saying, ‘Well, I’m not sure I like your way of doing it,’ but on this particular album everything they did on my songs, I couldn’t have done them better, even if I had the (musical) knowledge).” It would normally be Lindsey doing the lion’s share of the work on Stevie’s songs, another thing that irked him. It was bad enough seeing Stevie get so much credit, but the fact he was still expected to develop her tracks created even more resentment. “So you don’t want to be my wife, my girlfriend,” he said in an interview in later years, evidently still chagrined. “But you want me to do all that magic stuff on your songs. Is there anything else that you want, just, like in my spare time?” Ouch.
As far as Lindsey was concerned, he had extra work to do because Stevie wasn’t a musician; she just swanned in when she fancied with a song she wanted them all to hear, expecting a pat on the head. But as far as Stevie was concerned, she wasn’t a musician because those formative years when he was practicing guitar, she was keeping a roof over their heads. Nevertheless, the fact remained that, while Lindsey was so intrinsically tied to Stevie that he always knew how to work with her songs, sometimes he simply wouldn’t do it. “He could take my songs and do what I would do if I had musical talent,” Stevie said in an interview with USA Today. “When he wasn’t angry with me, that is. That’s why there’s seven or eight great songs, and 50 more where he wasn’t happy with me and didn’t help me. Lindsey would say, ‘I don’t want this song on the record,’ and I’d say, ‘I hate you!’ and I’d be out the door and at home making up speeches I wanted to deliver to him the next day…” Part of Lindsey’s many-faceted irritation with Stevie was that her songwriting, despite her lack of technical musicianship, came so easily. As Ken Caillat noted, “She only knew about three chords, and she could make 30 songs out of them.”
It was difficult for Stevie to take criticism from Lindsey as a band member, as it was almost impossible to separate valid artistic appraisal from his anger concerning their situation. “It made for some hurtful times,” he admitted, “and you had to push through anyway.” But there were occasions when Stevie wanted to criticise his guitar parts when something wasn’t working, or tear him off a strip for not getting it right, but in turn those would be the times that “he would really need comfort from me,” Stevie said. “For me to say, ‘It’s all right. Who cares about them?’ You know, be an old lady (wife).... (but) I was also pissed off because he hadn't gotten the guitar part on. So I'm trying to defend their point of view and at the same time trying to make him feel better. It doesn't work. I couldn't be all those things.”
In the studio, Stevie invariably had to find something to do when the others were arranging their parts; she often sat behind Richard and Ken, smoking what was left of one of Lindsey’s joints or sipping tea with a splash of Courvoisier (medicinal purposes, naturally). Stevie might have been the star on stage but she often felt in the way in the studio. Even as she danced and shook her tambourine with its trailing black ribbons, she knew that it would be Mick’s tambourine parts that would be used, not hers. As Ken Caillat remembers it, she was mostly just trying to keep herself entertained, and her tambourine was always dampened with gaffer tape, as it would be on stage. It is the eternal problem for a singer – what do you do with your hands when you aren’t actually singing? Stevie had found a solution, and it suited her whimsical, gypsy image perfectly.
‘Dreams’ was, to say the least, a contrast to ‘Go Your Own Way’, an embittered ‘kiss-off’ aimed directly at Stevie in a major key but with a driving, almost brutal groove. The song that would end up on the album would be nowhere near as furious as the version that was first presented to the band. Caillat remembers being “surprised at the intensity of his vocal, almost angry… [it] was pretty raucous.”
Lindsey would claim that ‘loving you isn’t the right thing to do...’, hurting Stevie profoundly with the line ‘shacking up’s all you wanna do...’ insinuating a certain amount of promiscuity on Stevie’s side which, she insists, “he knew wasn't true. It was just an angry thing he said”. Saying it privately is one thing, proclaiming it on a record for the world to hear was another, and it would sting all the more that Stevie not only had to listen to it, she had to sing harmonies on the track, not to mention every night on tour when the time came.
But, snipes aside, Lindsey also exposed the fact he was still in love with her – ‘if I could, baby, I’d give you my world...’ – and he was apparently confused as to why ‘everything turned around’. But he was laying the blame at her feet and taking the high road, something that must have infuriated Stevie all the more. Stevie and Lindsey were communicating to each other through their songs, as they would continue to for decades to come, working out their pain in their own manner, jabbing each other musically, taking hits right to the heart. They knew each other too well, and were deft at pushing the exact buttons required for maximum emotional carnage. But in hindsight, Stevie also accepted that this was also just their way of processing their feelings, like keeping a journal or confiding in a soul mate. This was just that little bit more public...
“I write philosophically, he writes angry,” she shrugged. “As a songwriter, I have to respect that he’s gonna write about what’s happening to him, and so am I.” And so was Christine, although her songs were a little lighter in tone *... she was in love with (FM lighting director) Curry Grant, which definitely took her mind off John, with whom she barely spoke unless she had to ask which key a song was in. ‘Don’t Stop (Yesterday’s Gone)’, the kindest, most positive, forward-looking song on the record, was written for him however, although ‘You Make Loving Fun’ was famously and rather brazenly written for Curry, making the situation all the more awkward. Still, John had put Christine through more than enough anguish with his drinking, which by all accounts transformed his usually sweet ‘crazy big brother’ demeanour into something that was ultimately impossible to live with. It was frankly about time someone in Fleetwood Mac had some fun.